More Positive News for Housing, Jobs

The National Association of Realtors reported an increase in homes for sale, and the FNC found similar positive news in prices. Meanwhile, unemployment claims dropped and the stock market rose again.

The National Association of Realtors reported that in February the total number of U.S. single-family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops for sale was about 1.49 million units, an increase of 1.15 percent month-over-month. On an annual basis, however, inventory was down by 15.97 percent.

Nearly all of the markets with the largest year-over-year declines in February were in California, where inventory declines averaged a whopping 48 percent. The markets whose inventories declined the most included Sacramento, Stockton, Oakland, San Jose, Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Riverside and Ventura, with Seattle thrown in for good measure.

The Realtors also said the median age of for-sale listings fell to 98 days in February, down 9.26 percent from January and 11.71 percent below the median age in February 2012. The aforementioned California markets (plus Seattle) also experienced a dramatic decline in the median listing age, falling to an average of just 31 days, or 53 percent lower than a year ago.

Residential Prices Continue Upward Trend

FNC said on Thursday that its Residential Price Index shows that U.S. property values continued to recover through January, which is the 11th consecutive month of rising prices. In fact, despite the uneven pace of price gains across various markets, the index is another sign that the housing recovery is increasingly widespread, the company posits.

The FNC 100-MSA composite index, covering the 100 largest U.S. metro areas, found that January home prices rose 0.3 percent from the previous month and were up 5.7 percent year-over-year. The 30-MSA and 10-MSA composite indices showed similar rising trends, with the 10-MSA composite accelerating more rapidly, at 0.8 percent month-over-month and 7.2 percent year-over-year.

A limited housing supply and declining foreclosure sales are contributing to the recovery of underlying property values, according to FNC. The average list-to-sale price ratio increased to 93.5 in January, compared to 90.3 during the same period a year ago. Foreclosures as a percentage of total home sales — long a drag on home values — were 20.2 percent in January, down from 26.9 percent a year ago.

Jobless Claims Drop

The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Thursday that for the week ending March 9, initial unemployment claims took a dive to 332,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week. The less jumpy four-week moving average was 346,750, a decrease of 2,750 from the previous week.

Wall Street was feeling bubbly on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 83.86 points, or 0.58 percent. The S&P 500 gained 0.56 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.43 percent. It was the 10th winning session in a row for the Dow, which is very rare, and the S&P 500 came within spitting distance of its all-time hit.